Getting a Tax Extension
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by J.P. Finet, J.D. | Last reviewed December 01, 2021
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If you can't meet the deadline to file your tax return, you can get an automatic six-month filing extension from the IRS. The extension will give you extra time to get the paperwork into the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due.
See Last Minute Tax Tips for Late Filers and Need More Time? File a Tax Extension for more information.
Requesting an Extension: Estimate Tax Due
You must make an accurate estimate of any tax due when you request an extension. You will owe interest on any amounts not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have paid less than 90% of your total tax by that date. You may send a payment for the expected balance due, but this is not required to obtain the extension.
Automatic Tax Extension by Filing or Making Payment
If you cannot file your tax return by the due date, you may be able to get an automatic six-month extension of time to file. For example, if your return is due on April 15, you will have until October 15 to file.
You can get the automatic extension by:
- Using IRS e-file (electronic filing), or
- Filing a paper form
There are two ways you can use e-file to get an extension of time to file:
- E-file and Pay by Credit Card: You can get a tax extension by paying part or all of your estimate of tax due by using a credit card. You can do this by phone or over the Internet. If you do this, you should not file Form 4868.
- Complete Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to use as a worksheet. If you think you may owe tax when you file your return, use Part II of the form to estimate your balance due. If you e-file Form 4868 to the IRS, do not also send a paper Form 4868. You can use a tax software package with your personal computer or a tax professional to file Form 4868 electronically. You will need to provide certain information from your tax return from the previous tax year.
Filing a Paper Form (Form 4868)
You can get an extension of time to file by filing a paper Form 4868. Mail it to the address shown in the form instructions. If you want to make a payment with the form, make your check or money order payable to the "United States Treasury." Write your SSN, daytime phone number, and "2005 Form 4868" on your check or money order.
When To File Your Return
You must request the automatic tax extension by the due date for your return. You can file your return any time before the six-month extension period ends.
Enter any payment you made related to the extension of time to file on Form 1040, line 69. If you file Form 1040EZ or Form 1040A, include that payment in your total payments on Form 1040EZ, line 9, or Form 1040A, line 43. Also enter "Form 4868" and the amount paid in the space to the left of line 9 or line 43.
To get the automatic extension, file Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with the IRS by the April 15 deadline, or make an extension-related electronic payment. You can file your extension request by phone or by computer, or mail the paper Form 4868 to the IRS.
FIle by Phone
You can file Form 4868 by phone anytime through April 15 (or the following business day, if on a weekend or holiday). The special toll-free phone number is 1-888-796-1074. Use Form 4868 as a worksheet to prepare for the call and have a copy of your previous year's federal income tax return available.
The system will give you a confirmation number to verify that the extension request has been accepted. Put this confirmation number on your copy of Form 4868 and keep it for your records. Do not send the form to the IRS.
File by Tax Preparation Software
You can also e-file an extension request using tax preparation software on your own computer or by going to an authorized e-file tax professional. The IRS will acknowledge receipt of the extension request if you file by computer.
If you ask for a tax extension by phone or computer, you can also choose to pay any expected balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. You will need the appropriate bank routing and account numbers. You must also provide the adjusted gross income amount from your previous year's federal income tax return to verify your identity.
Extension-Related Credit Card Payment
You can also get an extension by making an extension-related credit card payment by phone or through the Internet. Contact one of the service providers below. The processor will charge you a convenience fee for the credit card payment. See the instructions for Form 4868 for more information on how to make an extension-related electronic payment.
If your return is completed but you are unable to pay the tax due, do not request a tax extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. The IRS will send you a bill or notice for the balance due.
Special rules apply to U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and members of the armed forces whose home and main place of business or post of duty are outside of the United States. For more information about these provisions, see Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, and Publication 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide.
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Contact a qualified tax attorney to help you navigate your federal and/or state tax issues.